The Role of the Transmission of Chariots in the Early East

The Role of the Transmission of Chariots in the Early
East-West Interaction: 2,000-1,200 BCE
Wu Hsiao-yun
Department of Antiquities
National Palace Museum
The origin of Chinese chariots has been regarded as one of the most important
issues of the early West-East interaction. Many scholars have demonstrated that
chariots were introduced from the Urals and the Caucasus in Central Asia to the
Yellow River Valley, and have proposed two possible transmission routes. Stuart
Piggott first maps a transmission route through the historical Silk Road across present
day Xinjiang and Hexi Corridor to the Shang capital at present day Anyang, Henan.
Recently, some scholars suggest a northern route starting from the southern Urals,
through southern Siberia, Mongolia, then along the Taihang Mountains down to
Anyang. To illuminate this issue, this paper adopts the ideas of set and package to
re-examine the earliest Shang chariot burials to reveal the nature of the Shang chariot
driving-and-fighting skill. It then examines the development of this skill and
associated ideas in the wider Eurasian context to demonstrate that the transmission of
chariots to Anyang was along the northern steppe route rather than the southern
historical Silk Road. In addition to mapping this transmission, what is more important
for our understanding of it is that we should recognize the importance of exchange of
artifacts and technologies in the constitution of societies during this period. This
transmission should be understood as a series of interactions of peoples in a chain-like
network from the Urals to Anyang. It was in such a network, exchanges and further
local transformations of the package of chariot skill and idea were achieved.
Keywords: the late Shang period, chariot, West-East cultural interaction, Eurasian